First World War Poetry Digital Archive


The First World War Poetry Archive is divided into a series of collections corresponding to the resources that it contains. In addition to collections related to ten poets there are four collections based around a specific type of content. These collections are:

  • The Photographic Collection
  • The Audio Collection
  • The Film Collection
  • The Publications of War Collection

You can read more about all the collections by visiting The Collections page.

In addition to these collections the Poetry Archive also provides a gateway to The Great War Archive, a community collection holding over 6,500 items originating from the First World War contributed by the general public between March and July 2008. There is also an education area which contains online tutorials, resource packs, a tool for creating annotated trails through the archive, links to other websites, online communities, and podcasts.

Browsing the Archive

The archive is divided up into collections with similar subject matter (e.g. 'The Wilfred Owen Collection', 'The Audio Collection'). You can browse the items within each collection via a number of routes.

For collections relating to specific poets:

  • By poem title
  • By poem first line
  • By other matter relating to that poet (e.g. correspondance to/from, official documents, diary entries)
  • By archival holding

For contextual collections (e.g. The Photographic Collection) you can also browse items of interest via a set of standard keywords e.g. 'Women', 'Western Front', 'Allied Forces'.

Search Box

You can search the archive for a specific word appearing in the bibliographic record of any item by typing this word into the search box that appears in the left hand column of any page. You can select to search either the Poetry Archive and its collections or The Great War Archive. Once your search is submitted you will be presented with the results. Here you can add items to your favourites or select items to compare (items must be single pages, not a multipage item) Click on any item to view it and its bibliographic record.

You can conduct a more detailed and precise search by using the advanced search, linked to from every page under the search box in the left hand column. The advanced search will let you search for specific words in up to three fields, search by date, and also provides the opportunity to search the full text corpora contained within the archive. A description of the fields available to search is contained within the next section.

Example searches would be:

  • A search for the world 'Dulce' in the Title field, 'Wilfred Owen' in the Author field and 'Image' in the Object Type field would return all images where Wilfred Owen is the author and 'Dulce' is contained within the title of the item (e.g. manuscript images of 'Dulce et Decorum Est')
  • A search for the word 'Trench' in Any Field and 'Photograph' in the Object Content field would return all photographs that are related to trenches.
  • A search for 'Poem' in the Object Content field between the 1st July 1916 and 31st August 1916 would return all poetry written in the summer of 1916.
  • Using the Full text poetry search (full text, any author) to find poems where the word 'Blood' appears within 20 words of the word 'Death'.
Advanced Search

Viewing items

Every item in the archive can be viewed or viewed upon download, and is presented along with a bibliographic record.

Viewing an item

There are four main types of items in the archive: images, films, audio and text.

When viewing an image you have the option to zoom in or out using the zoom button, rotate or move the image left, right, up or down using the arrow buttons. You can also copy and save parts of the image by using the knife tool.

Viewing an image

If you have a suitable media player installed within your browser your computer should be able to play audio and video files on the website itself. If you can not play the files in your browser download them to your computer and open in a suitable media player.

Text files are viewed within a scrollable window. Some text files in The Great War Archive are PDF documents or Word Documents, these need to be downloaded to your computer to be read.

Viewing multipage items

Some items in the archive consist of a number of pages. For example a letter may have 4 or 5 pages, or a poetry manuscript may be written on the front and back of a piece of paper. Whilst these will be presented as separate images they have been grouped together so you can easily move through the pages in sequence. When you view an item like this you will first of all be presented with a 'document description' which will tell you information about the item as a whole and also how many pages that it includes. To view the pages, click on the links in the panel to the left, then choose to view the page image or the page description (the page record).

Viewing a multi-page item

Item records and bibliographic fields

Every item within the archive has a bibliographic record associated with it. This record will tell you the title of the item, the date it was created, its author, where it was created, information about the original item it was derived from, and also supply any relevant additional notes. The specific fields are as follows:

  • Author The author of the item.
  • Subject Some items are not produced by a particular person, rather they are about them. In this case they are the subject. e.g. A photographic portrait.
  • Title The title of the item. Please note that all drafts of poetry manuscripts have been given the known title that they were published under as opposed to an alternative title that the author may have given the work at the time of creation. If this is the case it will be noted in the 'Notes' field.
  • Item date The date that the item was produced (if known). In many cases a poem is composed over a period of time. The date here relates to the actual date of the item you are viewing (e.g. the date the manuscript draft was written). Dates can either be precise, or indicate that an item was produced at some point within a period of time (e.g. June 1917 - September 1917).
  • Creation place The location where the item was created (if known). You can click on the 'Google maps' link to view a map of this location.
  • File Type The type of file the item is (Image, Audio or Video). All image files are .jpgs, all audio files are .mp3s and all video files are .mpegs.
  • Item source The source that the item was digitised from (e.g. a leaf, a folio, a notebook, a reel of film).
  • Item medium The material of the source that has been digitised (e.g. paper, card, tape).
  • Writing Medium If an authored work, the medium which was used to write (e.g. pen, pencil, typescript).
  • Content What the item is (e.g. a poem, a letter, a photograph).
  • Repository Name, Repository Address, Repository URL The name of the repository where the original item is held, its address, and link to its website.
  • Filename The name of the file
  • Copyright The copyright holder/s who have given permission for the item to be included in the First World War Poetry Digital Archive. This should be referenced in any reuse of the item. Please read the usage terms and conditions linked to from this information.
  • Reference URL A short URL that you can copy and send (e.g. in an e-mail, insert in a word document).

Some of the above fields will appear as hyperlinks in the record. You can click on any of these links to see other items with the same data.

Fields in the Great War Archive

The items in The Great War Archive contain a subset of the above fields. In addition to these the records also hold information on who submitted the item and whether they submitted the item on behalf of another person.

Adding items to 'My favourites '

Star icon to make item as a favourite

You can add items to 'My favourites ' by clicking on the star icon either when presented with the search results or when viewing the item itself. You can see how many items you have in 'My favourites ' and view these by clicking on the 'My favourites ' link in the left hand panel.

When you view 'My favourites ' you can perform a number of tasks. You can compare two items that you have selected side by side (only possible for images that have been selected from individual items of individual pages within multipage item), or view the items in a slideshow.

Comparing items

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is aimed at releasing a wealth of resources to researchers, teachers, students, and the general public to further the promotion of the subject.

Anyone is entitled to use the material for Educational Purposes (means for the purpose of education, teaching, distance learning, private study and/or research) but not for Commercial Purposes (i.e. selling or reselling the material or using it for any commercial gain).

For further information please read the permitted use guidelines.

Contact us

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